Agriculture Specialists Intercept Smuggled Trees

CINCINNATI, OH Last Wednesday, January 13th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati were inspecting incoming freight from China when they found a shipment full of live plants.  Officers referred the package to CBP agriculture specialists, who unpacked 21 small trees, likely intended to become bonsai specimens.

Specialists noted the trees were layered with various coverings—fabric padding, black plastic, bubble wrap, and, finally, tightly bound with colored tape—presumably as an effort to circumvent inspection.  The shipping documentation stated the package was coming from an electronics company in Shenzhen, China, and headed to an individual in Brooklyn, New York.

The shipment was accompanied by a commercial invoice stating the box contained a bracket, a vacuum pump, and a pamphlet, though these items were not in the package.  In order to be legally imported into the U.S., all propagative materials require a valid phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin, and some species require a USDA Import Permit as well.  Specialists destroyed the trees in accordance with USDA regulations.

“The United States has about 900 million acres of farmland, and agriculture and related industries contribute about $1.1 trillion annually to our economy,” said Cincinnati Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Barbara Hassan.  “Live plants can harbor pests and diseases that, if introduced into our agriculture systems or natural resources, could cause significant damage to our food supply or native species.  Our agriculture specialists are dedicated to protecting these essential American resources from foreign pests and diseases.”

On a typical day in Fiscal Year 2019 CBP agriculture specialists prevented 314 pests from entering the U.S. through ports across the country, and confiscated 4,695 materials for quarantine, including plants or plant products, meats, animal byproducts, and soil.